Two women suing Dr. Phil McGraw and CBS Television alleging they suffered trauma when they were exposed to a naked man during an episode of the television psychologist’s program can move forward with their suit, a judge ruled today.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Elizabeth Allen White rejected a motion by attorneys for “Dr. Phil” McGraw and the network that maintained the suit by Shirley Rae Dieu and Crystal Matchett infringed on their First Amendment right to air a topic of public interest.
“There is no discernible public interest in these two plaintiffs,” White said, adding that their complaint focuses on their treatment by the show’s staff and not on statements made by anyone.
Dieu, 56, of Irvine, and Matchett, 26, of Westland, Mich., filed separate suits last year that were later consolidated by White into one complaint. The allegations include fraud, negligent misrepresentation and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
Dieu and Matchett agreed to take part in a 2007 episode of the show in which they spent a week in a residence called “The Dr. Phil House,” which was wired with cameras and microphones, according to the defense’s court papers. The women participated with four other people and the show’s topic was the difficulties they all had in interacting with other people.
At one point a nudist came to the house to join the others for dinner, defense court papers state.
“This incident was part and parcel of the scenarios being used at the house
to focus each of the participants on their ability to tolerate unique individuals and situations, and to resist their own judgmental character,” the defense court papers state.
The claims of both women also are barred by releases they signed agreeing to appear on the show, McGraw’s attorneys contend.
But in a sworn declaration, Matchett said she was offended by the nude man’s appearance.
“As a naked man ran into the house, I was in shock and total disbelief of what was happening, feeling violated and disgusted,” Matchett stated. “I heard … Dieu scream, ‘How dare you’ while covering her eyes and running into the bedroom.” Matchett also says she was pressured by a show staff member to sign the release and never had the chance to read it.
Dieu says in her declaration that after she and Matchett retreated to a bedroom “horrified and crying,” a show staff member banged on the door yelling, “Come out, come out Shirley and see the naked man.”
The location for “The Dr. Phil House” was a “cramped, windowless … house on a sound stage in a bad neighborhood,” according to Matchett.
Kelli L. Sager, a lawyer for McGraw and CBS, declined to comment on the ruling.